According to both the National Transportation Safety Board and AAA, when it comes to the likelihood of having a vehicle crash, teen drivers are far and away at the top of the list.

First time drivers are three times as likely to be involved in a serious vehicle crash than older, more experienced drivers. In fact, the key ingredient is not their age as much as it is their inexperience behind the wheel. Teen drivers are also first time drivers, meaning they often lack the real world experience required to make good decisions behind the wheel. This lack of experience causes them to over-react or under react; misjudge timing, over or under estimate their speed, and generally not respond as they should during high stress or dangerous situations.

In response to the mounting evidence that teen drivers are at a much higher risk of having a serious crash than any other drivers, many states have begun instituting a graduated driver’s licensing program. In these states teen are granted first a learner’s permit which allows them to only drive with another adult, fully licensed driver in the vehicle with them during specific times of the day. Once they show they are capable of performing the skills required of a safe driver they are given a license with more driving privileges. They must continue to demonstrate excellent driving skills before being allowed to proceed to a fully permitted license.

In other states teen drivers are required to successfully complete a traffic school program to learn basic defensive driving skills. As a side benefit, completion of a defensive driving course often can lead to reduced insurance rates for teen drivers providing a further incentive.

When it comes to teenage drivers, studies show that the more practical experience they can get behind the wheel, the better driver and the safer they are. Increasing the skills of the growing number of teen drivers will also lead to safer streets for all of us to share.

Image: Simon Howden /